Some years ago, I built a tree house with my son. I did this because I traveled extensively and I wanted him to remember us doing something together. I also did this because I didn’t want him to perceive his mom as a mad woman who was forever stressed out, always running to save everyone’s world but her own...
The trip to the building supply store was interesting. In my mind, traditional tree houses were imperfect things that were made of cast off scraps of wood, rope and old hinges, built over an entire childhood. In stark contrast, our 21st century project would be completed over a four-day weekend with power tools and new plywood. When the cashier at the store, found out we were building a tree house, she asked my son, “So who’s going to help you build it? Your Dad? To my pleasant surprise, my son said, “No, my Mom- she’s an engineer. She can build anything.” I didn’t know he had so much faith in me. I didn’t exactly know what I was doing… I didn’t even have a good plan, just pictures in a book and an interesting tree which had given us permission to attach something to it.
The tree house proved to be a group project with my son and the neighbor kids hammering nails and holding things down while I ran the power saw and my husband lifted heavy things. The following week, I heard the neighbor kid say to my kid, “This is a cool tree house. We need to make some rules like, No girls in the tree house.” Again, to my pleasant surprise, I heard my son say, “I don’t think my Mom would like that very much because- well, girls kind of built the tree house. I think we have to let everybody play in the tree house.” As a parent, I thought, Mission Accomplished. He understood what community was. This lesson alone was worth all the pain killers I had eaten over past week. My back suddenly felt better.
Childhood provides a small window of time to make a lifetime of impressions. He will be an adult much longer than he was ever a child. And, to some extent, he will become me. This means that if I actually become a more peaceful person, he will absorb some of this. If I just talk about it all the time, hmmm….. things to think about.
Years later, my son was learning to drive and the tree house didn’t hold the spell it used to. My husband replaced the rope ladder with a wooden stair so we don’t break our necks climbing up into it. But occasionally, if I’m looking for a quiet place with a great view to sip a cool drink, a lawn chair in the tree house is perfect. Sometimes I look out and see my son, running off to conquer a brand new world. He waves back at me over his shoulder, the future ahead.